New research reveals management and firstline workers dealing with the same pressures in the workplace

ambulance workers collaborating on teams

Health and wellbeing, handling fatigue and meeting deadlines are top pressures of workers across Australia

New research from Microsoft Australia has revealed firstline workers and business managers experience similar challenges and pressures in the workplace – despite differences in their day-to-day roles.

The top three pressures identified by firstline workers – the very people who engage with customers directly – and business managers are: the pressure to meet deadlines and expected outcomes (76 per cent); maintaining health and wellbeing (71 per cent); followed by difficulty in handling fatigue and workload (69 per cent).

The research reveals firstline workers and business managers also have similar strategic priorities with the top three priorities identified by respondents as growing their skill set (55 per cent), improving customer experience (49 per cent) and improving workplace culture (39 per cent).

There is a clear opportunity for firstline workers and business managers to collaborate in the workplace to alleviate these challenges as well as meet their strategic priorities. Business managers that engage firstline workers in business-wide transformation initiatives will be better placed to succeed in their business priorities.

Ian Heard, Modern Workplace Lead, Microsoft Australia said, “Although employees are more technologically interconnected than ever before, there is a clear opportunity for greater collaboration and teamwork between firstline workers and business managers.”

For many organisations, being on the firstline creates distance from decision makers. Despite efforts to create a more connected and collaborative workforce, the research reveals over a quarter of firstline workers (28 per cent) are committed but not engaged in their current role, compared to 21 per cent of business managers.

“Employee engagement goes right to the heart of a business and does not just makes a business unique, but also successful. A workforce that is passionate, connected and engaged helps to drive innovation and propels the business forward. At Microsoft, we empower firstline workers by providing them with digital tools to exercise greater creative and strategic freedom, bringing real value to their work. Organisations which create an engaged, connected and collaborative workforce will be better poised for success in the long-term,” Heard added.

Clearer and streamlined communications

The online survey of 1,006 working adults was commissioned by Microsoft and completed by research firm, YouGov. It focused on four industry sectors – health, retail, manufacturing and public sector and reveals all industries experience similar workplace pressures.

Manufacturing, retail and public-sector workers identified meeting deadlines and expected outcomes as the greatest workplace pressure. For health care workers, maintaining health and wellbeing was identified as the greatest pressure with 77 per cent of firstline workers and 68 per cent of business managers agreeing.

The research also reveals 61 per cent of retail personnel find lack of access to the latest technologies a significant pressure in the workplace. More than half of workers in the health and manufacturing sector, and just under half of public sector workers agree that they are under pressure to complete work in a timely manner due to lack of access to the latest technologies including devices.

“At Microsoft, we recognise the value of having access to the latest technologies including devices as a tool to alleviate workplace pressures. Microsoft’s Surface Go which is now available in Australia, has been purposely designed to improve employee engagement and satisfaction, making it easier for workers to collaborate and save time.”

Across all industries, half of firstline workers (50 per cent) identified clearer communication from the executive leadership team as essential to alleviating workplace pressures with 42 per cent of business managers agreeing. In addition, 40 per cent of respondents, both firstline workers and business managers want greater access to training.

“Interaction and collaboration amongst employees is the very lifeblood of many organisations. We recognise that clearer communication from leadership is a way to not just relieve pressure for firstline workers but also create a more engaged, connected and collaborative team. At Microsoft, we work with forward-thinking Australian organisations across industries including public sector, manufacturing, health and retail to provide them with the tools and expertise to transform and build collaborative workplaces which support business priorities including enhancing customer experience, employee engagement or improving the bottom line” Heard said.

“Our research suggests a greater focus on digitally enabling workers will enhance communication and collaboration within the workplace, which supports not just business priorities but also some of the day-to-day pressures,” he added.

The findings of this research could not come at a better time with the launch of new capabilities into Microsoft Teams, facilitating streamlined communication and collaboration between business managers and firstline workers. This includes Shifts, a new feature which enables managers to create schedules, and employees to swap shifts and request time off. Workers will also have access to Teams via a mobile app, giving them access to rostering, to-do lists and important organisation-wide announcements.

In addition, live and on-demand events, now generally available in Microsoft 365 enable staff to create and stream events including training sessions in Microsoft Stream, Teams, or Yammer informing and engaging employees from the firstline to management.

Australian organisations empower firstline workers and enhance collaboration in the workplace

For Queensland Ambulance Services (QAS), one of the largest ambulance services in the world, its deployment of Microsoft Teams during the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast enabled its management to provide clear communication and real-time updates to its firstline workers, enhancing collaboration within the organisation.

Christine Stower, Director ICT Governance and Strategy said, “Teams demonstrates an effective and functional solution which can meet a broad range of organisational communication needs, now and into the future. It provides a sound platform for real-time communication. It also provides an easily-accessible, consolidated communication hub enabling the minimisation of phone calls and emails. This is of benefit particularly in the QAS environment where a real-time consolidated communication capability is essential.”

Using Microsoft 365, Leading Australian furniture retailer, Amart transformed its workplace, lifted employee engagement and amplified its customer voice by undertaking a digital transformation which enhanced communications and collaboration within the organisation.

Nick Shelton, General Manager of People at Amart Furniture said: “We’re now able to communicate without any hierarchy at all. Senior leaders, general managers, our CEO, are able to communicate with a casual team member on the other side of the country.”

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